Outback Steakhouse’s virtual sister concept gets a wider test

The chicken-centric Tender Shack is expanding into 12 more markets.
Tender Shack
Photo courtesy of Tender Shack

The parent of Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill is expanding the test of its newest venture, the virtual chicken concept Tender Shack, to 13 markets.

Tender Shack offers chicken-based sandwiches and platters exclusively for delivery by DoorDash, the third-party service used by the restaurant brand’s parent, Bloomin’ Brands. The food is actually prepared in the kitchens of Outback and Carrabba’s restaurants, with Tender Shack listed as the source in online and app listings. 

As with other virtual brands, the move is intended to have the virtual brand land high in the search results when consumers are hunting for an operation to deliver a particular product they’re craving, such as chicken tenders. It is essentially a means of search engine optimization (SEO), or how to bump up a listing in online searches.

The same consideration has led Bloomin’ competitor Brinker International to launch It’s Just Wings, a virtual concept whose food actually actually is prepared in the kitchens of Chili’s and Maggiano’s Little Italy. Dine Brands Global, parent of arch-rival Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill, has launched the virtual concept Neighborhood Wings by Applebee’s.

Bloomin’ began testing Tender Shack in its backyard market of Tampa Bay, Fla., in early September. The sales trial is being extended to 12 other regions, including four markets in Texas (Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio); four in Louisiana (Metairie, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Lafayette); two in Kansas (Kansas City, Wichita); Tulsa, Okla.; and Independence, Mo.)

“Our customers and our operators have been very pleased with the test and we’re excited to expand the test to additional areas,” said Michael Stutts, Bloomin's chief customer officer. 

Many casual-restaurant operators like Bloomin’ have been experimenting with new concepts and formats in their quest to boost off-premise sales. Bloomin’ is also trying a drive-thru concept called Aussie Grill by Outback. Texas Roadhouse said it plans to step up development this year of its drive-thru holding, Jaggers, and Famous Dave’s is using units of the Johnny Carino’s Italian chain as ghost kitchens for its barbecue.

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